The Liberal Bee Jays and the Seattle Studs were brought together Tuesday evening at Lawrence-Dumont Stadium to play a baseball game.
But the winners bracket semifinal game, which Seattle won 4-2, was only part of the much larger story on Tuesday, as the Bee Jays and their fans try to cope with the death of 9-year-old bat boy, Kaiser Carlile.
The game was a chance for a community of baseball fans, coaches, and players to come together — and that’s exactly how the night began, as Seattle’s team, with “KC” scribbled on their caps, joined the Liberal side to stand with them for the national anthem.
“That was the best way we could think of to support them,” Seattle manager Barry Aden said. “We were going to stand behind them and have their backs, not in opposition of them.”
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Emotions ran high as Kaiser’s sister, Keirsie, threw out the first pitch in front of a large crowd. After Keirsie delivered a strike down the middle, Chad Carlile, the father, went down the line of Liberal players with his daughter and enthusiastically slapped the hands of every one before the game.
“It was just unbelievable to see that,” Liberal manager Adam Anderson said. “The strength of Chad and his family has rubbed off on our organization. The way he’s handled the situation and his strength has allowed us to get through this.”
Liberal was eager to give the pro-Kaiser crowd something to cheer for, but Seattle’s ace on the mound, Geoff Brown, wouldn’t allow it.
The Bee Jays trailed 2-0 after the first inning and never recovered. Liberal had the bases loaded with two outs in the second and failed to score, then loaded them again in the fifth and scored twice, but no more. Brown delivered seven strikeouts in seven innings.
“We just wanted to go out and play a good baseball game and we did,” Anderson said.
“That’s a 4-2 ball game that is a couple of hits away from being a 4-4 ball game. The support, the crowd, the atmosphere was just tremendous.”
Seattle, which Anderson said has been “first-class” to his team, had to address what was a confusing situation. They, along with everyone else in attendance, wanted to see Liberal win for Kaiser, but they also came to Wichita to win an NBC championship.
Aden made it clear to his players that leading up to the game they would do everything they could do to support Liberal.
“But for those two-and-a-half, three hours where it was us or them,” Aden said, “it had to be us.”
Brown, the winning pitcher, said it was one of the toughest situations he’s had to deal with in his young career.
After an uncertain few hours of shutting down the team he wanted to root for, he knows one thing is for certain now.
“We’re all baseball players and we’re all on the same team at the end of the day,” Brown said. “Now that the game is over with, we’re back on the same team and we’re with Kaiser’s family and our prayers and thoughts are with them.”
2 10 1
4 10 1
W — Brown . L — Wiendenfeld. S — Thompson.
Liberal batting: Wehby 3-4, Miller 0-3, Williams 2-4, Brooks 0-4, Cox 2-4, O’Donnell 1-4, Green 1-4, Hubbard 0-3, Sherley 1-4.
Seattle batting: Savage 2-3, Jordan 1-4, Holm 1-4, Boe 1-4, Becker 1-4, Backes 1-4, Ruiz 1-4, Breda 0-3, LaVelle 1-3.
Liberal pitching: Wiendenfeld 7 1/3 IP-3 ER. Hernandez 0 2/3-0.
Seattle pitching: Brown 7 IP-2 ER. Thompson 2-0.
NBC World Series
When: Three games Wednesday starting at 5 p.m. Schedule, 9B.
Where: Lawrence-Dumont Stadium